Federal Budget-Pitting Canadian against Canadian

Even after the huge cuts to the public sector in the last budget, it appears that this government isn’t finished yet. In Thursday’s budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty indicated that he plans a major review of the way the federal government pays and manages its workforce to make overall compensation “affordable” and bring it more in line with the private sector.

This is an entirely consistent and not unexpected strategy from this government. First of all, it pits Canadians against Canadians, a divide and conquer strategy which has become standard practice for this government. Secondly, it keeps those in the private sector from expecting or demanding more.

Since the 1980’s, Canada has seen its productivity increase and its economy grow substantially. Our GDP per capita and productivity are at their highest level in our history. Most Canadians however, have not seen any benefit from this. The middle class has had stagnant wages, and the poorest 20% of Canadians are poorer than they were in 1980. If this weren’t bad enough, we also have fewer public services and receive less from our government.

We are told that these are times of austerity yet we produce more goods and create more wealth than ever before. The problem is that the majority of Canadians and our governments do not benefit from this wealth. We give it to a relatively very few individuals and corporations instead. What this Conservative government most certainly does not want is for Canadians to start demanding more from this economy that produces so much. So they will try to reframe the discussion to get Canadians to fight each other to the bottom. Because the public sector has had a strong union they have managed to maintain respectable wages and benefits over the years. This is what all Canadians should have. This government will try to get Canadians to attack each other to drive down their own wages rather than join together to demand more from our economic system. Let’s hope that Canadians are smart enough not to fall for this.